Doctors should encourage patients with sexually transmitted infections to tell their partners to seek treatment and, in some cases, provide home testing kits or drugs to help reduce infection rates, says a new study.

Partner notification is an important part of managing most curable sexually transmitted infections, but the stigma attached to sexually transmitted infections often makes this difficult.

Researchers analysed 14 studies involving 12,389 women and men diagnosed with a common sexually transmitted infection, including chlamydia, gonorrhoea, and non-specific urethritis.

Three new strategies were used in these studies that made it easier for patients to share responsibility for the care of their sexual partners: patient delivered partner therapy (where a patient is given drugs or a prescription for their partners), home sampling for partners, and providing additional information for partners.

All three strategies were more effective than simple patient referral (where a patient is simply encouraged to tell their partners to seek treatment).

However, the team found that simple patient referral, with extra information about the infection and its treatment that the patient can give to their partners, seemed to be as effective as patient delivered partner therapy.

Involving patients with sexually transmitted infections in shared responsibility for the care of their sexual partners improves outcomes, say the authors. Health professionals should consider these three strategies for the management of individual patients.

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